Holiday time is precious. You can’t be wasting your days ending up at ho-hum hotels and forgettable tourist haunts. With that in mind, let us be your guide to the best beaches, restaurants and everything in between.
Sun, sand and sea
It’s a tough call, singling out just one stretch of sand to rule them all. There are 115 islands in the Republic of Seychelles, so there’s no shortage of idyllic coves and bustling beachfronts to choose from.
Mahé’s Beau Vallon is a strong contender for many visitors, with a string of beachfront hotels and bars offering lively days and nights on the sweep of sand. Over on the tiny island of La Digue, it’s Anse Source d’Argent that draws the crowds. But that’s the problem: It’s popular thanks to all those postcard shots. Our advice? Leave it to the Instagrammers and their drones, and hop on the ferry across to Praslin instead.
Over in the north-west corner you’ll find tiny Anse Lazio, our vote for the best beach in all the islands. Here, palm and casuarina trees will shade your beach towel as you gaze out over impossibly turquoise waters. Don’t be surprised to spot the occasional super-yacht moored just offshore. Peckish? Book a table at Bonbon Plume for a cold SeyBrew lager and a plate of their famous crab curry simmered in coconut milk.
A taste of history
For centuries, Seychelles has been a major refreshment station for ships plying the Indian Ocean, including English sailors shipping spices and pirates raiding passing traders. The spice garden at Le Jardin du Roi was planted in 1772 to fill the holds of those passing ships, and nearly 250 years later it remains one of the most engaging corners of Mahé. There’s a small museum in the old plantation house, but the highlight is a self-guided walking trail through acres of spice orchards – a botanical treasure hunt with a dollop of history.
Views for days
Finding the best view on Mahé takes a little effort, but you’re rewarded with vistas and a little history. Mission Lodge marks the site of what was once a school for liberated slaves, built by the London Missionary Society in the 19th century. While the forest is slowly claiming the ruins, a short walk brings you to a charming gazebo with spectacular views across Mahé and down to the coast. Look for the sign commemorating the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, who stopped here for tea
Walk on the wild side
As long as you don’t mind the heat and humidity – and you can always cool off in the hotel pool – the Seychelles offers
a surprising diversity of hiking trails. On Mahé you’ll find a network of well-marked walking trails that scramble along the coastline and up into the hills. The trail through the Morne Seychellois National Park to the idyllic beach of Anse Major is one of the most popular.
But if you ever needed a reason to lace up your walking shoes, the Vallée de Mai must surely be it. This forest in the heart of Praslin is home to more than 4 000 coco de mer palms, endemic to the Seychelles, as well as healthy populations of the island’s rare black parrot. The self-guided walking trails are well marked.
This lush forest is also the only one of the Seychelles’ two UNESCO World Heritage Sites open to visitors: access to the other, the Aldabra Atoll in the far west of the archipelago, is strictly controlled.
There are few opportunities for burning through your credit card in the Seychelles, but if you’re seeking out a souvenir or three, head for the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market in the capital, Victoria.
While the ground floor of this colourful market caters to locals stocking up with everything from fresh vegetables to a cut of the day’s catch from the fish vendors, upstairs you’ll find a good range of curio boutiques selling trinkets, T-shirts and prettily packaged spices.
While the cafe at the Le Jardin du Roi is good, and Bonbon Plume is great for seaside dining, for a taste of traditional Creole cuisine, you will want to head straight for Marie-Antoinette Restaurant.
Set in a heritage building on the outskirts of Victoria, the restaurant has been feeding hungry locals and travellers since 1972, when Kathleen Fonseka first opened its doors. These days, it’s her son who keeps guests smiling as much as the approachable menu of island flavours does. Happily it’s a seven-course set menu, allowing visitors to taste everything from grilled tuna and chicken curry to battered parrotfish and deliciously crispy aubergine fritters. If you call ahead, they’ll also whip up one of the island’s specialities: fruit-bat curry.
It’s tempting to think of the Seychelles as a soporific seaside destination, but throughout the year a host of colourful festivals bring a riot of colour to the island’s streets and beaches.
The highlight of the Seychellois calendar is certainly the annual Creole Festival (Festival Kreol), which takes place from 23 to 29 October in 2019. The festival celebrates the island’s diverse heritage, with events ranging from art exhibitions to street parades across the three main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Also look out
for restaurant specials and Creole cookouts for a taste of authentic island cuisine.
Entrance is free
One unsung upside of a holiday in the Seychelles is that your passport will be graced with the world’s coolest immigration stamp. While the ever-smiling immigration officials dish out a warm welcome at Seychelles International Airport on Mahé, they’ll also ink your passport with the voluptuous curves of the coco de mer, the iconic fruit of the Seychelles.
Even better? You won’t need a visa to get it … all visitors to the Seychelles receive an entry permit on arrival. Gratis.
Where to stay
The best beachfront hotels…
Mahé: MAIA Luxury Resort & Spa
Need a luxury island escape for some uninterrupted R&R? Look no further than MAIA Luxury Resort & Spa, hidden amid lush forest on the west coast of Mahé. There are just 30 villas on offer, ensuring privacy, exclusivity and personalised service. Each villa dishes up superb sea views in contemporary style; think Hermès products in the en-suite, private infinity pools and a sunken outdoor bath. Did we mention the private butlers? They’re on hand 24/7 for everything from delivering sundowner cocktails to curating your bespoke dining experience in the resort.
Praslin: Paradise Sun
The second-largest island, Praslin, excels at shifting down a gear, and there are few finer places to do it than this laid-back luxury resort on the north coast. Its seafront locale is
the envy of many hotels, and the sands of Anse Volbert lay out the welcome mat for guests to the hotel’s 80 luxurious rooms. Scattered between 26 French-colonial style bungalows, the rooms are all decorated in a breezy Creole style, a fine echo of the shimmering waters that lie just beyond the verdant tropical gardens. While the resort is conveniently located for discovering the highlights of Praslin, you’ll be just as tempted to stay put. The laid-back St Pierre Beach Restaurant overlooks the sands and its eponymous island just offshore, while the on-site spa offers Balinese-inspired body and facial treatments to slow you down to island time. For affordable luxury, Paradise Sun is the place to find your own slice of